This is a review of "Butterscotch" recorded by Tim Canfer. The review was written by Rob Paul Chapman in 2004.
Hearing the news that you’ve been asked to review a demo from a local acoustic singer/songwriter is enough to send shivers down the spine of even the hardiest of writer. The fact of the matter is there are only so many ways you can say “pleasant yet unspectacular” without sounding lazy, ill informed or just plain bored. Which you may well be, but it just doesn’t come over that well in writing. The problem is that there are just too many people doing the same sort of thing ‘OK’.
Therefore it is with great pleasure – and not little relief – that I can report that Tim Canfer is far from ordinary. Let’s not get too carried away, this demo is far from a work of outstanding genius, but it is refreshingly different, and that frankly is enough for me.
Central to this is Canfer’s gloriously unaffected and practically production-free voice. Rather than the standard-issue angst-ridden tenor, Canfer sings in a rich yet unpretentious baritone-bass that sounds like it would be better suited to singing traditional English folk-songs circa 1300. The structures are intriguing and seem of a far-gone time. They are light in feel, yet dark in undercurrent, the kind of thing you could imagine playing in the background of one of those weird scenes from The Wicker Man.
There is also something quite distant about this, almost otherworldly. Canfer seems quite content to remove himself from the audience, almost as if he is singing to himself. Lyrically themes seem refracted and confused piecing together parts of stories to form something vague, but still engaging. It seems like he isn’t talking to or about us, and like life in general, these are the conversations that interest us most.
“Butterscotch” sounds closer to a madrigal than a pop-song. Almost pre-baroque, with it’s taut counterpoint as high in the mix as the melody. In fairness the revert back to traditionalism and slight obviousness of the lyrical content in the chorus lets the track down a bit with the old minor to major routine, but its still pretty effective as a whole.
“Still Buzzin” (which is a terrible title it should be noted) is better with its menacing and slightly frantic Arabian accompaniment zipping along behind a languid vocal. It is instances like this that bring out the best in Canfer’s voice. Technically he may not be the greatest singer in the world, but put a slightly manic backing track down and the simple, clearly pronounced Englishness juxtaposing it perfectly.
It is difficult to see how to make progress on the basis of this demo. Somehow you feel that adding any more to it either in terms of instruments or production would take away its appeal. However, that’s tomorrow’s problem. For now, best just enjoy a rather charming demo of simple quality.